Your pet turtles have been happily getting along for what seems like forever. They’ve always gotten along. They play together, eat together, and pretty much leave each other alone. Then all of a sudden one of them starts biting and attacking the other out of nowhere!
If you’ve got a male and a female in a tank together, numerous factors could be leading them to bite one another. The most common is the male is trying to mate with the female and doesn’t want to take no for an answer. There are plenty of other reasons why they could be fighting through.
This brings up the questions, why is my red-eared slider biting the female? What brings this sudden change of behavior on, and what can you do to prevent it? Keep reading to learn all about why turtles can start biting each other and what you can do to help.
Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Biting the Female? It May Be A Show Of Dominance
Red-eared sliders have a well-deserved reputation for being very territorial. If your male is much larger than your female and your tank is too small then the male might start bullying her. It’s rare that a male will pick on a female like this because the females are typically much more docile and easy-going.
However, it can be a possibility if there’s not enough room. An easy rule of thumb is that you should have 10 gallons of water per every inch of turtle. If you have two full-grown adults that can mean up to a 200-gallon tank! If they’re younger turtles, at the absolute minimum you need a 100 gallon for them to be really happy.
If both of your turtles are crammed into a small tank, they will quickly get stressed and start being aggressive toward one another. The only way to fix this is to either place them in separate tanks or to get a larger tank for them to co-exist in.
If they generally get along and only bite at each other when you feed them, it could be that they’re either not getting enough food. In that case, trying feeding them separately and see if the behavior improves.
They May Be Defending Their Territory
This goes hand in hand with the first reason. Turtles are by nature solitary animals and for the most part like to be left alone. If they feel crowded then they will quickly get territorial and will become aggressive in order to defend their habitat.
This tends to happen most commonly when the turtles have to share a basking area, cave, or hiding spot. If they start getting stressed with one another and have nowhere to go to relax then they will begin to lash out. Biting and slapping at each other is their way of saying “Go Away!”.
Luckily, this is the easiest issue to fix. All you need to do is set up a separate basking area for each turtle to go to as well as a cave for each one. It may also help to place more rocks, plants, and other decors in the tank to provide more places for them to get away from each other.
These are relatively minor changes that will drastically improve the happiness of your pet turtles.
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The Most Likely Reason Is a Desire to Mate
If you’ve tried everything you can think of to get your male to stop biting at your female and nothing is working, then the male is probably trying to mate. If the biting behavior came on suddenly after an extended period of time together, then mating is almost certainly the reason.
A male flirting with a female often looks a lot like bullying. They come out at them out of nowhere and slap at them and often even go so far as to bite their necks. From the outside, these attempts at getting attention look quite violent. In reality, the male seldom hurts the female during these mating rituals.
What looks like slapping is actually a type of dance male’s do with their forelegs to get the female’s attention. If that doesn’t work then they will gently nip at the female’s neck to show that they’re interested in mating.
If the female is agreeable, then they will mate. It’s when she’s not interested that the problems can start. If she doesn’t want the male, she may bite back hard enough to wound or throw them into the water. If the male persists, the female may even go so far as to kill the male for not leaving her alone, although it rarely comes to that.
Decide If You Want Baby Turtles
Unfortunately, red-eared sliders breed like rabbits and are extremely common. Because of this if you’re not careful then you might wind up with a huge clutch of eggs that you have no idea what to do with. It’s very important that if you don’t want that to keep an eye out or mating behaviors and to remove one of the turtles from the tank at the first signs of it happening. It may be prudent to simply keep them separated from the beginning if you don’t want to worry about this possibility.
If you don’t mind the idea of turtle babies, then let them proceed as they would in nature. However, if you notice your female getting stressed, aggressive, or seems exhausted remove her from the tank and place her on her own immediately.
Another idea, in this case, is to have multiple females in a tank with a single male. Then the attention will be divided among them and they will all be much more peaceful. Although multiple male red-eared sliders will often begin fighting, females will happily co-exist with each other as long as there is ample room for them.
You should always check in on your turtles and make sure their needs are being met and that they are happy. They have very obvious ways of showing when they’re upset, so if you notice a change in their behavior tries to fix it as soon as possible. The sooner you help the situation, the better off your turtles will be and you’ll have a greater chance of keeping them together.